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Reply to "Teacher suspended for ten days, after calling student Nigga!"

Valley Traditional High School is in the middle of a racial controversy. A teacher used a racial epithet towards a student. The word is only six letters long but the impact is far reaching.

We do want to warn you that some of the language in this story is strong and may offend some people, but since this story is not just about the "n" word it's also about the pronunciation, we've decided to leave it in the story for you to decide.
    Murphy: "What did he say to you specifically?"

    Chavers: "Sit down, nigger."
Keysean Chavers is a freshman at Valley, a Boy Scout, a football player, a member of the ROTC, an honor roll student. He was hanging around his teacher's classroom door in December. The teacher, Paul Dawson, told him to sit down. Dawson says Keysean used the word first.

"I was just kind of stunned for a second and I said, 'Well then, get away from the door, niggaz.' I repeated the same insult because that was sort of what I was trained to do." The school district says that's not what they trained Dawson to do. "He tried to say I said it and I didn't say it and no one else in the class said I said it, because I didn't," says Keysean.

Documents from the school investigation show that several of the students interviewed from Valley did not hear Keysean say the "n" word first. Dawson says students use the slang version of the word at Valley High School all the time. He says "nigger" is a racial slur but says students use "nigga" as often as they say "dude" or "hey, man." Dawson says as much as he doesn't like the word, he still used the slang version to feel more comfortable with black students. "Why is this word used so frequently? So I just don't understand it and I'm trying to understand it," Dawson says. "I need help."
    Murphy: "What kind of example are you setting for your students if you are using a word that you don't want them to use?"

    Dawson: "Upon reflection, that's not good."
Dawson was suspended for 10 days without pay from January 9 to January 23 and has to go to diversity training. He says he's learned from this and hopes others think twice before using the epithet. "I will never say any form of nigga. I'm cured of that."

Dawson says he is sorry for the way things were handled, but Keysean says he is not looking for any apologies. "Apologizing isn't going to change the fact that it happened and he's not been punished," he says. What constitutes punishment in Keysean's mind? "Him not having his job anymore."

Dawson says he wants there to be a steadfast policy against using the word. Right now it is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Keysean is still in Paul Dawson's classroom.

Dawson has been with the district for 20 years. As part of our investigation we found that English teacher Paul Dawson was suspended in 1994, back when he worked at southern high school. According to documents, Dawson directed a student to place a sign on another students back that said, "I am gay." Afterwards, he was assigned to non-instructional duties pending the investigation and he was not supposed to return to Southern High School. The next day he ignored the order and went to Southern anyway. Shortly afterwards, Dawson refused to turn in his grade book to investigators. Dawson was suspended for five days without pay and had to go through an employee assistance program. Dawson also had a letter of reprimand that same year for selling candy to his students.

The school district says even with this most recent incident of him using the word "nigga" toward a student, this veteran teacher will get to keep his job. "It's understandable the frustration and the anger about a situation like this and we sincerely apologize because it is not our mode of operation, but we do believe that we have sent a very strong message," says Jefferson County Public Schools spokesperson Lauren Roberts.

Dawson says he will appeal his 10-day suspension to try and get it off his record. He did not want to talk about his past suspension when we met with him. His latest suspension is the longest suspension the district has ever given a teacher.

Dawson will go before district administrators at the end of the month to appeal his unpaid suspension.



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